By James Pickard
Thanksgiving is a national holiday, the giving of “thanks” for the blessing of the harvest. The origins of Thanksgiving date back to October 1621, when the English Pilgrims and the Wampanog Indians shared a feast to celebrate a plentiful harvest.
Today in America, Thanksgiving is celebrated with a turkey in the oven, all the fixings, and families and friends gathered around to watch the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, munch on snacks and watch American football.
History.com says the first Thanksgiving dinner was most likely lobster, seal, deer, and swan; which was prepared with Native American spices, and with Native American cooking methods, as the Pilgrims had no ovens yet. And the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, so the meal did not have pies, cakes or other desserts.
A look back shows that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the US official bird. He wrote to his daughter in a letter that he thought the turkey would have been a more respectable representation of their country. Even though the bald eagle is a beautiful bird, it is a predator and scavenger.
The forefathers set aside a time for Thanksgiving in 1623, when William Bradford declared a day of thanks after a 14-day rain. The rain ended their drought and saved the harvest.
Thomas Jefferson’s felt his Thanksgiving in 1801, according to history.com, went against his beliefs, an aversion to mixing the church and state, and he felt it would violate the first amendment. By the year 1854 more than 30 states and US territories had a day dedicated to Thanksgiving. But it was not until Lincoln declared it a national holiday after the civil war in 1863.
The first Thanksgiving Parade has been around since 1924. The parade looked a lot different then. In 1925 the parade was bigger with 5 bands, a 100ft caterpillar snaking through the streets and cages of animals and elephants from the Central Park Zoo draped with signs that read “Macy’s Christmas Parade”.
There are those who believe football has clouded the true meaning for Thanksgiving. According to Time Magazine the first Thanksgiving Day football game place in the mid 1870’s in Hoboken, New Jersey when Princeton played Yale. The first NFL game was in 1934 between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears. Football has been played on Thanksgiving Day ever since. “Except during World War II, when the team was required to serve,” says Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ever heard of “Franksgiving”? In 1939 Franklin Roosevelt decided to change Thanksgiving Day to the second to last Thursday in November, according to the National Archives. Franklin worried about it being too close to Christmas shopping, that it would shorten the holiday spirit and dampen the economic recovery. The change cause a great deal of confusion. In Texas, Mississippi and Colorado, they celebrated both dates. Since the holiday is embedded in tradition, people started calling the change Franksgiving. Two years later, congress ditched the new policy and reverted back to the original date which is the legal holiday today.
In 1953 an employee at Swanson’s mis-calculated a shipment of turkeys and ordered 260 tons. A man named Gerry Thomas came up with a great plan, to fill 51,000 aluminum trays with turkey and other fixings. It proved to be a huge success, especially with the airlines. 10 million turkey dinners were sold at 98 cents each.
The USDA in Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other state in the USA. In 2016 they produced 44.5 million turkeys.
In the year 2017, Roto Rooter reported Black Friday was the busiest time for the plumbers. Thanksgiving day clogged the kitchen sinks, garbage disposals and toilets. After that, they started calling it Brown Friday.
In the spirit of the thankful Pilgrims who survived their first brutal winter and celebrated with the Native Americans, we hope you have a Thankful season!